Not-So-Pretty Princess: The Internet Fights Back Against Restrictive Gender Roles

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We live in a world where young girls are constantly bombarded with media images, images that tell them how to look, how to dress, and how to police their weight in order to be worth something in our society. But perhaps one of the most pervasive of these images (and one of the images that start at the youngest age) is that of the princess.

Here’s a quick look at one extreme example of how these harmful images can follow young women well into adulthood: meet Kelly Lee Dekay, a fetish model who wore a corset for 7 years to shape her waistline to an excruciatingly tiny 16 inches. Her inspiration? The highly sexualized, “adult” version of a princess-  Jessica Rabbit.

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Aside from the serious health risks that come with this kind of behavior (seriously, ladies: corsets do not do your internal organs or ribcages any favors, so maybe skip the Spanx at your next function?), these kinds of media messages have been shown to increase eating disorders among adolescent girls. Honestly, there is something seriously wrong with a society where over 80% of ten-year-old girls have been on a diet. As increasingly larger numbers of younger girls are inundated with these kinds of images, what can we do to help our young girls enjoy the princesses they love while keeping healthy views of their own bodies? Not only that, but how can we teach them to not be passive, dainty damsels in distress, but rather active players in shaping their own futures?

Here’s where the Internet comes in: social media has been an incredible way to spread images of body positivity and messages that encourage young girls to break free of the restrictive gender roles encouraged by stereotypical depictions of princesses. For example, here’s a great article that shows what Disney princesses would look like if they had realistic waistlines (the banner photo for this post is one example).

And here’s an incredible video that dresses little girls up as (adorable) princesses and then allows them to hilariously tear down gender stereotypes with their rather unexpected language. Way to fight for gender equality little ladies! The end even touches on how restrictive gender roles are just as harmful for men (WARNING: contains graphic language):

And lastly, here’s a fantastic music video by the incredibly talented, 15-year-old YouTube star Benny, whose artistic and haunting portrayal of gender roles pushes for more acceptance and fluidity for men and women alike:

UPDATE: In response to criticism about how some of their princesses reinforce stereotypical gender roles, the Disney Channel has launched the “I am a Princess” campaign in order to inspire young girls to empower themselves. What do you think of their efforts? Leave a comment below with your thoughts!

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